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NFL Playoffs: Steelers, Bengals and Ravens' Postseason Odds

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The AFC North has the AFC's only three teams that can clinch a spot in the NFL playoffs this week.

The Cincinnati Bengals are one of many NFL teams on the cusp of clinching a playoff berth, but could also miss out on the postseason altogether if they are unable to win one of their final two games.

Sitting at 9-4-1, it is possible the Bengals lose both of their remaining two games and still make it to the postseason, but that requires a lot of help. Then again, it's not crazy to think both the Chiefs, Bills and Chargers will all lose at least one more game, and that's all Cincinnati needs if they can't win the AFC North.

As for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, they too can clinch a playoff berth this week, though Pitt cliches outright with a win vs. the Chiefs. The Ravens will need a win and a little help to earn a playoff spot, but like their fellow AFC North brethren (not named Cleveland), they'll be in the postseason if they simply win out.

Per Numbers Fire, the Bengals have a 44.7% chance to clinch a playoff spot in Week 16. Here is how they could do it:

CINCINNATI BENGALS (vs. Denver) Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot with: 44.7%

1) CIN win OR: 37.9%

2) KC loss + SD loss + BUF loss or tie: 6.8% (assumes CIN loss)

Here is how are the probabilities shake out for the rest of the AFC to clinch a playoff berth:

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (vs. Kansas City)

Pittsburgh clinches a playoff spot with: 63.6%

1) PIT win: 63.6%

BALTIMORE RAVENS (at Houston)

Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with: 28.6%

1) BAL win + PIT loss + CIN loss OR: 10.9%

2) BAL win + KC loss or tie + SD loss or tie: 17.7%

Here is a look at the playoff odds by Football Outsiders:

Team W-L WEI DVOA Mean Wins #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 DIV BYE WC TOT CHANGE
BAL 9-5 28.6% 10.5 0.0% 0.0% 6.7% 19.3% 37.3% 24.4% 26.0% 0.0% 61.7% 87.6% 7.1%
PIT 9-5 10.4% 10.2 0.1% 3.2% 29.7% 14.4% 10.7% 23.4% 47.4% 3.2% 34.1% 81.5% 15.8%
CIN 9-4-1 -1.9% 10.2 0.1% 1.4% 12.0% 13.2% 24.7% 26.8% 26.7% 1.5% 51.6% 78.2% 27.5%
CLE 7-7 -11.3% 7.6 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% -4.3%

Here's what Five Thirty Eight has on their playoff chances:

And finally, here is ESPN's look the playoff odds for each AFC North team:

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

Current record: 9-5 | Weighted DVOA: 10.4% (9)
Mean projected wins: 10.2
Total playoff odds: 81.5% | Weekly change: +15.8%

OK, here's where things start to get confusing. Based on Football Outsiders numbers, the Ravens are the best of the three AFC North teams that currently own playoff spots. The Ravens also finish with easier opponents (Texans, Browns) than the Steelers (Chiefs, Bengals). However, the Steelers have a 3-2 division record right now, and the Ravens are only 2-3 in their division. That means that if the two teams finish tied with the same number of wins -- which happens in 40.8 percent of our simulations -- the Steelers would likely get the tiebreaker.

And so even though the Ravens actually have better playoff odds than the Steelers, with a better chance to win more games, the Steelers win the AFC North in roughly half of our simulations. The Ravens and Bengals each win the division about one-fourth of the time. (Regarding Cincinnati's chances, it's a big help for the Steelers that they have home-field advantage when the two teams play in Week 17.)

5. Baltimore Ravens

Current record: 9-5 | Weighted DVOA: 28.6 % (3)
Mean projected wins: 10.5
Total playoff odds: 87.6% | Weekly change: +7.1%

According to our DVOA ratings, the Ravens have been underestimated by conventional wisdom all season long. Although they got clobbered by the Steelers in Week 9, Baltimore's other four losses all came by a touchdown or less. But they've also won six games by two touchdowns or more.

6. Cincinnati Bengals

Current record: 9-4-1 | Weighted DVOA: -1.9% (19)
Mean projected wins: 9.7 (plus a tie)
Total playoff odds: 78.2% | Weekly change: +27.5%

The Bengals put up their best game of the season by DVOA at the most important time. Add that to the losses by San Diego and Miami, and only Dallas had a larger boost to its playoff odds this week. The bad news is that the Bengals won't be favored in either of their final two games. Our playoff odds equation gives them a 40 percent chance of beating Denver at home and only a 30.5 percent chance of winning in Pittsburgh in Week 17. That's a 41.7 percent chance of finishing 9-6-1.

And yet, even in simulations where the Bengals finish 9-6-1, they still make the playoffs half the time.


In the hunt

Kansas City Chiefs | 8-6 | Total playoff odds: 34.1%
San Diego Chargers | 8-6 | Total playoff odds: 10.0%
Buffalo Bills | 8-6 | Total playoff odds: 6.4%
Houston Texans | 7-7 | Total playoff odds: 2.2%

Check out Baltimore Beatdown for more in-depth coverage on the Ravens and their postseason hopes. As for the Steelers, check out Behind the Steel Curtain.